Revel Systems found its niche in the point-of-sale landscape by developing software that turned an iPad into a payment terminal. But a WiFi-based device such as a tablet is only as strong as the WiFi signal it's connected to.
To improve the reliability and security of its mobile point of sale offering, Revel is creating a version with wired Ethernet connectivity. Revel customers can still fall back to WiFi if there is a power outage or other issue, but the wired connection makes Revel's technology an option for more businesses.
"It's a really big deal for us," said Christopher Ciabarra, co-founder and chief technology officer of San Francisco-based Revel Systems. "A lot of agencies and bigger corporations don't allow WiFi because of security controls, so this allows us to have the Revel iPad POS as a wired solution available for them."
A new client signed on to use 40,000 Revel terminals because of the cable-connection option, Ciabarra said, though he would not disclose the name of the business.
Putting that in perspective, Revel currently deploys about 10,000 iPad-based terminals using WiFi globally.
"We're looking to go well beyond those numbers," Ciabarra said. "We have several potential clients looking into this with really large numbers of terminals."
A pending deal with Intuit Inc. would add another 10,000 terminals to Revel's network, Ciabarra said.
By adding the cable-connect option, Revel is making its system "incrementally more attractive" to restaurants and other businesses, said Gil Luria, analyst with Los Angeles-based Wedbush Securities.
"The bigger restaurant operators usually choose Micros from Oracle or Radiant from NCR for a variety of features and functions that small-business products like Revel don't have," Luria said. "One of those features is the wired connectivity."
The small-restaurant retail technology space is very competitive, and Revel has the opportunity to "emerge as one of the successful ones," Luria added.
As many as 10% of Revel's current clients encountered some sort of problem with WiFi connectivity, Ciabarra said.
"You can almost always have issues with WiFi in heavily condensed areas," Ciabarra said. "In those areas, people are trying to get on top of each other with WiFi."
So far, Revel has not encountered any problems with its system in stadium settings, where the company has made some inroads. But the potential for WiFi issues is present in a lot of large entertainment venues, Ciabarra said.
Ironically, one of Revel's first pitches with its system for stadiums was that the iPad-based system on a stadium network could continue to operate through its WiFi connectivity and 10-hour battery power in case of a power outage affecting the stadium network.
Now, Revel can approach most any size of restaurant or retailer with the same promise.
"Enterprises with terminals in different locations are looking for a cable solution," Ciabarra said. "And we're talking about enterprises with 1,000 store locations or higher."
A cable-connected system also makes deployment faster and troubleshooting and maintenance work easier, as a technician can work on a network terminal from a remote location, Ciabarra added.
Late last year, Revel's expansion plans for Europe got a boost from a $1.2 million grant from Invest Northern Ireland.